Manly Man Tools and Grasshopper Farming …

Binford Tools and Grunting …

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to add a couple of key tools to my shop (the term shop is highly subjective here, mine being about 5’x5′ space between the chest freezer and a pile of boxes that just never seem to go away), in preparation of the many activities on the coming farm. Side Note: While we did not get the loan just yet, as I stated previously, we have a contingency in place that will still allow us to acquire the property. I won’t go into the specifics “cause I don’t want aw-ery one all up in my beness!”

Okay, now that I have established my “Street Cred”, I can sashay back to tools. The entire process of purchasing larger tools (miter saw, nail gun, compressor) was quite exhausting believe it or not. The process started with research … suddenly I was a Friar or Monk of old, studiously searching the ancient texts for clues to the dark secrets of power tools. While I was there, I figured I would also pursue the age old mystery of “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop”. Yes, I know that the crabby old Owl says three, but he has a dishonest face and unlike me, is entirely lacking in street cred. Upon finishing my laborious studies of dusty, old tomes, I prepared myself for my journey. I climbed aboard my black steed, jaw firmly set. I would not return without the religious artifacts I so desperately desired.

Unfortunately, once I reached Castle de Home Depot, something terrible and surprising occurred. Walking through the doors, I was instantly transformed into a 10-year old boy. I found myself elbowing a few of the other men to be first into the store. I slapped one dad and took off running to the power tool area, screaming at the  top of my lungs “You’re It!” and giggling like a school girl. That was quickly squashed by an elderly store employee who told me under no certain terms, that there was no running in the store. Dang it! I wish I had known that prior to the tagging incident. I did my best Granny Speedwalk, directly to the nail guns, where I declared myself safe! Pwned sucka! While my victory dance didn’t do my ancestors proud, and probably won’t win me America’s Got Talent … prudes … it was incredibly liberating just the same!

I worked with a store clerk, whom I shall call Marvin the Magical (or M2M for short … steet cred hollar!) to get the big ticket and heavy items, onto one of those Paul Bunion carts. Once the goods were perfectly aligned on the cart, equally distributing the load on all 4 wheels, I suddenly felt empowered! There I was, grunting in all my manliness, climbing atop the pile of tools on the cart, striking my best Luke Skywalker pose from my favorite Star Wars poster, raising my tape measure to the sky! I asked Marvin the Magical to lay at my feet, playing the role of Princess Leah, to round out the scene. He wasn’t into it. And then of course I got “the look” from the elderly store employee. Well … that was short lived.

I raced home and spent the remainder of the day in the dark garage, hunched over my newly acquired tools, muttering to myself incessantly. I love my new tools, I admit it. They are wonderful, they are … precious to me … my preciousssss … gollum, gollum!

Grasshopper Farming …

I am desperately trying to figure out what to do about the plague of grasshoppers at the farm. They easily can be measured in the thousands or by the pound, whatever suits your fancy. I created a list on how best to handle the grasshoppers, in no particular order:

  1. I considered relocation, however this flash of brilliance was stymied by the lack of any grasshopper rescue organizations, unbelievable how selfish the human race has become.
  2. Perhaps I could acquire our flock of chickens early. Surely they would make short work of the offending arthropods. However, the fencing is not in place for chickens, and walking 40 leashed chickens at one time as if I was a big city dog sitter just doesn’t appeal to me.
  3. I mulled over the possibility of hiring Flick and his specs ops circus buddies to defeat Hopper and company. But of course he is booked this time of year and his schedule wouldn’t allow it!
  4. I am sure there is a pesticide out there that would melt the grasshoppers in their tracks. However, we really are interested in trying to co-exist with the environment and not destroy it. So items 1,2, and 3 are more probable than this one.
  5. Perhaps increasing the habitat for birds (a few houses, water, etc.) to help control the population.
  6. I understand that grasshoppers hate Cilantro. I guess I could stop at Chipotle on the way home, but seems like a waste of their delicious burritos.
  7. There are various natural oils that can also help.
  8. I actually considered just raising and nurturing the damn things. There has to be a market out there for them. Perhaps some amalgamation between Deena’s candy making prowess and protein rich grasshoppers. Christmas gift baskets suddenly don’t seem like such a pain! Eat carefully my friends.
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Thoughts …

When is enough, enough?

We received word last night that our application for the loan was denied. I don’t blame the lenders at all, being sick and losing my job a few years back devastated our finances. They are just trying to make the best decision they can. Our finance liaison is desperately trying to get us an exception … thank you T! But it most likely won’t happen. And that is okay, we have a few contingencies in place to overcome this.

You may infer from the title above, “When is enough, enough?”, I am talking about patience and dealing with the stresses of finances, home ownership, etc.

But I’m not. Frankly, I feel super blessed to even be in a position to consider purchasing a small piece of land to call our own.

No, I am talking about all the wealth we have. “We” being the general populace. This morning Deena passed on an email from a Google Group that our entire neighborhood belongs to. One of residents caught a man going through her trash can and recycling at the curb (its trash day). She chased him off and then sent out a warning to the other residents. /sighI very much remember a time when Deena and I had no money and worried about our next meal. It is a humbling experience and a scary one. With unemployment as high as it is and the economy in shambles and getting worse day by day, that poor man is doing what he can to survive, and most likely for his family too. He is going through our waste to see what he can salvage

Deena’s reply to that email above really expresses our feelings on the matter:

“My heart breaks for him. I think it’s our job to try to help preserve the dignity of those less fortunate. He’s already digging through the trash… things that we don’t want/need… but he does. I’m so thankful that we are not forced to do that to survive… but situations can change in a flash. We are so blessed…. I hope we never forget that.”

It makes me wonder when enough really is enough. How much wealth is needed to feel like we have “arrived”? I find myself thinking of our full pantries, our refrigerators filled with food. The security and safety of our homes. We flip a switch and have instant electricity. We turn a knob and get fresh, safe water. There are SO many that do not have those things, things we might consider “basic necessities”. I am not going to enter into a debate on what is needed and what isn’t. That is for each person to decide for themselves.

But perhaps the next time we find ourselves frustrated over trivial things, we can take a step back and remember just how blessed we are. Many states, including our Colorado, are on fire … people loosing their homes, their memories, their dreams. It starts to bring things into perspective for me.

We are in the process of selling or donating things we don’t need or use, basically reducing our furniture and “things” by more than half. I am definitely not saying we are the end all, be all. But it is a lifestyle choice that we are moving to and we are finding it suits us quite well. Doing more with less.

Ultimately, it is our sincere hope that the farm will produce in abundance so we can help support one of the local homeless shelters or help families in need. It is one of the driving forces behind what we are doing.

For me personally, this quote from Kingdom of Heaven sums it up nicely:

What man is a man who does not make the world better.”  – Balian of Ibelin

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Progress …

The Inspection … dun, dun, duuunnnn …

We headed out to the farm last weekend to meet the inspector and to have a second date with the property (more to come on that below).

The inspection took about 2 hours. Really great inspector, did a fine job and let me tag along to boot! AND I didn’t even embarrass myself either! I tossed out terms like “passive solar heating”, talked about adequate ventilation for the attic, and upon visiting the crawl space, I commented that a person could convert the crawl space into an End of the World shelter to survive the coming cataclysm in December (curse you Mayan Calendar!!). The last comment was not well received and the inspector kept a reasonable distance from me for the remainder of the afternoon, always ensuring I wasn’t blocking any potential escape routes.

The inspection went rather well … a few drainage issues around the foundation, but the foundation itself is fine and the drainage, or lack thereof, is nothing I can’t fix. The hallway bathroom tub has a leak around the drain and that is definitely something the current owner needs to fix. The house is even ready for AC (the concrete pad and electric is in place). So with minimal cost, we can avoid being “melty” next summer. Yes, yes … typically starting a farm/homestead and getting back to basics doesn’t entail Air Conditioning … but you haven’t seen my hair when I get overheated, it has a mind of its own and I can’t do a thing with it! (Can I get an Amen?)

So we are currently waiting for the full inspection report and all the great things that come with that. (Disclaimer: I don’t really know if “good things” come with an inspection report, but I am hopeful.)

Second Date …

You guys remember the second date right? The first date dream-state wears off, you start to notice some of the faults and quirks, appearance and hygiene issues that weren’t present the first time, etc. You get the picture.

When I first got out of the truck on Saturday I took notice of the thick layer of dust and dirt on the truck from the roads, the scrubby and apocalyptic looking weeds and sage brush dotting the property, the dry hot winds, and of course, who can forget the plague of biblical proportion grasshoppers that mock me with their insensitive jumps and silent ridicules. I guess my prevailing thought was “What in the hell are we thinking?”

It was at that point that I remembered that I came from a long line of craftsman (shipwrights, wheelwrights, carpenters and farmers) and that I can do this! So I did what every strong, mature, self-respecting man would do … I promptly dried my tears, wiped my nose on my sleeve, and commented to Deena how much yard work she had ahead of her. Honestly, it was quite liberating!

One thing is for sure, this is going to be one hell of an adventure! So tune-in, subscribe, comment, post, cross-post, cross-cross-post, tweet, chirp, groan, and whatever else you kids do these days … you wont want to miss this!!

Underwriting …

So where do we stand now in the loan process? The loan is in the queue for Underwriting now. Basically the approval process. Given the current financial climate (Thanks Greece! And no, your delicious yogurt does NOT make up for this!) and my bumpy credit history resulting from being sick a few years ago, I give us a 50/50 chance … if that. I am nervous. Time for a Diet Coke … I hate hitting the sauce so early, but a man has to do, what a man has to do!

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Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork… SAVE THE TREES!!

Wow… so today our lender is wanting a copy of everything from taxes to blood type. (Not really, but you get the idea). We are taking a stand and trying to do everything electronically. Hopefully, we’ll be able to save some trees in the process. (Crossing fingers) Honestly, my head is spinning with all the legalities of the purchase. I guess I’d forgotten how much there is to do to buy a new home!

As for the “farm”… our container garden is doing well. We tried to transplant some of Keith’s blackberry plants so we can transport them to the farm. So far… it looks like the transplant might have been too big of a shock to it. We are watching and hoping that they survive. I’ll keep you posted.

Other than that… our potatoes, onions, pumpkins, squash, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries are doing really well. 🙂 I think we may have to put up a growing light for the garden into Keith’s shop at the farm at first. There are 2.5 metric TONS of grasshoppers out there right now. If they see our beautiful garden… they will think that the salad bar has moved in just for them. LOL! Since I’m not keen on providing them with an organic picnic … or provide them with a vat of homemade ranch dressing… I think the shop will be the safest place to finish this growing season. Who knows… it may extend our growing season well beyond the first snow!

Okay… I’m off to finish baking peanut butter cookies for tomorrow’s adventure. We are helping some friends build fire breaks to protect their beautiful lodge in the mountains from the High Park fire. So far, the cabin is safe… but the fire is unpredictable and they need our help!

“We’re blessed to bless again!”

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Frustration, Funds, and Faith

Well, it’s been a week or two since we decided on this crazy journey. After all of our problems in the last couple of years…(Keith’s getting sick, getting laid off, losing the house, finding a rental, finding ANOTHER rental, and dealing with increasingly severe rheumatoid arthritis)… we finally feel like we are on the road to recovery.

We found out this morning that we may have to finish paying off Keith’s medical bills before we can secure a loan for our farm. (He was in the hospital ICU 4 times in 5 months… two of those times with NO insurance. You can imagine how high those bills are!) This was quite a blow! If we have to pay off those bills, we won’t have the money for our down payment for the farm.

Keith and I took a step back last night and said, “If this is not the right way to go… we trust that God will block it.” We talked with our realtor and she told us that the owners are willing to do a “lease back” for us until we can get our loan. Basically that means that we would rent the farm at the price of their mortgage payment for 6 months to a year and then secure our loan. This option would allow us to save more money to begin making improvements on the farm. (We need new flooring in the house, materials and a few tools to build the chicken coop and barn, etc.) Is this the best way to go??? We have no idea. We do risk losing the low interest rates… but maybe 6 months won’t make a huge difference. Who knows!

Above all… we are trusting God. He is our guiding light. He is molding us… changing us… helping us. While we wait, He is teaching us to appreciate the little blessings in our lives, helping us strengthen our marriage, and try to repair the struggles we have had in our family. We are so incredibly blessed. We have 5 beautiful children… though only one lives with us… and we love them all so much. It has been a bumpy journey being a blended family, but as we rely on God, He will rebuild our family. Today’s blessings included getting up early to cook breakfast for Keith, watering our container garden while it was cool outside, finding our first ripe tomato on our tomato plant, and reflecting on the love I have for and receive from my husband, wonderful parents, sisters, children, and amazing Academy girls. Also, I am blessed by being unconditionally loved by our three precious “furry” children. It’s amazing how much the pups make me smile.

**deep breath**…. I am rich.

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Humble Beginnings …

Getting Started …

Don’t you just hate getting that first sentence, paragraph, or thought written? That is where I have been all morning, trying to figure out how to start this blog.

Whether it is a blog, novel, review, or a letter of apology for accidentally mowing the neighbor’s Jade Vine, a rare flowering plant from the Philippines that is basically irreplaceable. Not that I did that personally or know or, have any involvement or information pertaining to an individual or individuals that did or did not commit said act. Normally I would follow with something about “… the names and places of the those involved, that I have no knowledge of, have been changed or are completely fictional, etc”. … but I digress.

Wait … see what I did there? I got the blog started. Sweet! (Note to self, send Dear Wife, herein know as DW, a lovely card notifying her how lucky she is to have me … perhaps a monetary gift to me is in order.)

Farmer Jenkins …

DW and I have long talked about acquiring our own bit of Colorado for some time now. This notion has transcended many iterations … from Farm to Jousting School, buried school buses in the back yard to our very own little Isengard (I lost that vote! Hrmpf!), eco friendly micro garden to raising our genetically altered sentient mutant spores, bent on world domination.

We ultimately ended up with the idea of homesteading. Wikipedia doesn’t have much in the way of information concerning homesteading. Which, honestly as your everyday, non-contributing, freeloading Wikipedia surfer, I find highly offensive … might need to reconsider that one.

The concept of Homesteading is not a new one. Self-reliance, feeding your family, carving a life out of dust and dirt, a fresh start. The reasons go on and on. For us, I think the “reason” has been more of a path of growth (no pun intended. Get it farm, growth … never mind). We have been on quite the roller coaster these last years. Illness, unemployment, loosing our house, death … you name it, we have dealt with it. I find these things to be life’s little warning bells, drawing your attention to what is important.

For us, that includes learning to feed ourselves, a lost art to those of us who are consumers. Living more harmoniously with the environment and hopefully contributing more than we consume. And a desire to raise and nurture things.

However, over the last several years, we have also discovered a strong desire to help others. Whether that is providing fresh produce for homeless shelters, teaching classrooms of kids about farming/urban farming/micro farming, etc. For us, this has become the biggest driving force and our main focus.

Our Journey …

We decided to start this blog to record and share this journey of ours. We are currently looking at a little farm property right now and will write more about that later. Please visit often, subscribe, comment and enjoy. Thanks for joining us

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